How many people does a ‘troop’ make?

Journalists take note—troops and soldiers are not interchangeable terms.

Whether I’m listening to all-news radio or watching the nightly news, every so often a report comes on about a military conflict overseas, and I’ll hear that four troops were killed, or we’re sending in more troops, or 23 troops were injured.

I don’t have a military background, but invariably, I find myself wondering: How many people are we talking about?

What constitutes a troop? An individual? I’m not so sure. You don’t typically hear about a single troop.

In fact, the very day that I write this article, a headline accompanying a photo on the front page of The Wall Street Journal reads: Latest strike in spring Taliban offensive kills American troops. The photo’s caption goes on to explain: U.S. soldiers lie on the ground in Afghanistan after a suicide bomber hit, killing 11 including three U.S. soldiers, and injuring at least 20.

OK, now I’ve learned that three soldiers were killed, which of course is awful. But the headline said “troops,” which to me sounds even worse.

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